Pocket Sandwich Theatre doesn't take itself seriously. And that's why, of all the theaters in Dallas, it's the one you're most likely to appreciate even if you don't like the theater.
This Dallas institution has called the corner of Mockingbird and Central Plaza home since 1980. On Thursday nights, when Pocket Sandwich offers discounted tickets to its shows, the theater is always at least half-filled.
Draft beers are served in plastic cups, desserts on styrofoam plates, and patrons are encouraged to throw popcorn at the actors during the performance.
Shows generally start at 8 p.m., but if you get there at 6:30, you can place your food order next door from the deli-style menu, which is similar to what you'll find at Jason's Deli. It's not gourmet, but it's not bad.
Before the show starts, the theater’s delightful waitstaff will serve you a drink. The program for the current show, The Final Adventure of Hercules, features a word search asking patrons to find nine of the 15 letters of the Greek alphabet hidden throughout the tongue-in-cheek cast bios.
When the show begins, so does the popcorn deluge. From the opening notes of the first song, actors, staff members and patrons throw the buttery stuff at each other. It's all OK as long at you’re not picking it up off the floor or “doing spoon pops or using grenade launchers.”
Hercules incorporates a lot of contemporary jokes. When Daedalus asks Talos about Greece’s fallen heroes, Talos cheekily responds that Tide Pods killed Orpheus. Another line, about how Hercules had slayed “the monsters of rock,” elicits a wicked guitar riff from the sound booth.
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At Pocket Sandwich, you don't have to worry about being hushed by ushers or theatergoers. The audience is instructed to shout “hooray” for the hero and “aww” for the love interest, and to boo and hiss and hurl popcorn at the villains. The villains are easy to spot because they all wear black.
While the performances are scripted, the actors' improvisation is the highlight of an evening at Pocket Sandwich. They respond to the cheers and jeers of the audience, respond to hecklers and get laughs, all while staying firmly in character.
Timothy Flippo, who provided piano accompaniment Thursday night, says he approaches each show with the music half-planned, expecting to improvise the other half. “You always want to vamp it up depending on how the audience is responding to a certain character," he says.
You don’t buy a ticket to see a show at Pocket Sandwich Theater; you buy a ticket to be a part of the show, and get some dinner and a few baskets of popcorn for your trouble.